Mannie no longer sprung out of bed for our morning walks.
It used to be that as soon as you said ‘outside,’ he would pop up, tail wagging as he trotted off, beating you to the back door.
Often mistaken for a dog several years younger due to the boundless energy, brilliant coat and youthful eyes, age had caught up to our black Lab, Border Collie, Rottweiler cross.
His body had become lumpy. He had trouble with stairs. He couldn’t hear. He slept the days away. Most recently, maybe in the past couple of weeks, you could see Mannie take a noticeable turn for the worse.
His pal long-time pal, Ruthie, my brother’s dog, was with him for his final hours. Having no knowledge of what was to come – but knowing something wasn’t right with her friend, she laid at his bed with him through the night.
It was a tough night and previous day. Mannie didn’t leave his bed – not to eat, not to drink and not to go outside, unless we forced him. In the middle of the night, he struggled to get up and after holding it all day long, voided his bowels all over the floor. After a 4 a.m. cleanup, he went back to his bed, where he stayed.
The next morning, Ruthie couldn’t and wouldn’t return to his side. She could sense the inevitable and she was nervous.
My wife and I knew very well the end could be near. We took him to the vet mere hours before we had to be on a plane to Sacramento, California. The vet confirmed our worst fears.
Yes, Mannie was old. But the vet believed that pain he’d developed in his abdomen was likely due to a mass that had formed. He said his chance of survival and positive quality of life after treatment at that age was slim.
Tears in our eyes and streaming down our face, we made the decision to let him go.
He got to jump up on the couch in the patients’ room on a cozy little blanket. (Mannie wasn’t allowed on the couch at home – except on rare occasions.) He was fed liver snacks that he devoured in his final moments.
We held him tight, telling him how much we were going to miss him and
that we loved him, and he drifted off for his last sleep.
Mannie J. Cherney, named after the province of Manitoba where he was born on July 2, 2003, passed away peacefully at the age of 14, on March 1, 2018.
Among the many things, he was our fiercely loyal friend, our guardian, our shoulder to cry on, our exercise partner, our entertainment, our frustration, our cuddler, our cheek-kisser, our hide-and-go-seek player, our death-defying acrobat and a welcoming pet to everyone who entered our home.
He was sought out by my wife and her then-husband, Dallas, in the summer of 2003, while on vacation at the family cabin in Star Lake, Manitoba.
It had been raining for 10 days, boredom set in and they were thumbing through the Winnipeg Free Press classifieds looking for a Rottweiler pup. They found one breeder, but all they had left was this shrimpy black lab. Dad was a Rottie and mom was a black Lab, Border Collie cross.
He turned out to be a diamond in the rough.
Mannie spent the first six days with his new owners at that cabin. It became the place where throughout his life he was most at home, and where his personality shone the brightest.
His legendary 10-foot leaps off the dock where the boat was tied were his trademark. And when not jumping in, he was chest deep in the lake, head underwater, front paws scraping the lake floor in search of large rocks he would grasp in his powerful but gentle jaws and then deposit on the shore. Look ma! A rock!
He joined us when we fished and when we anchored the boat just to swim. He was one of the kids; when they dove in, he followed right after. Man, he could swim for days.
Of course, life wasn’t always on the lake.
Between July 2003 and September 2005 Mannie was the close comfort of my wife’s husband Dallas. He was battling cancer and Mannie was there with him. He was the stalwart companion who stood by Dallas, laying close with him and taking his mind off the ongoing battle against his disease.
Dallas died in September 2005, leaving Mannie and my now-wife. (The whole story about my wife and I getting together is a whole ‘nuther tale… maybe a novel.)
He played the same role for her, a comforter laying beside her in bed at night, the one thing she could count on everyday as she recovered from the death of her husband. Mannie was always a rock like that.
I had met Mannie prior to actually moving in and becoming a regular part of his life. Even then I knew he had a certain joyeux-de-vivre that you don’t find in all dogs. I’d had dogs all my life, but this fella had a spark. That spark endeared him to everyone who crossed his path.
That SPARK is what prompted one of the most indelible memories I have of Mannie, shortly after I moved in with my wife. In retrospect it’s funny as hell, but at the time it was one of the most frustrating.
(It happened the same day as the featured photo at the top was taken.)
He was always playing games; never a shoe-chewer, but he’d grab your shoe and play a game of keep away with you. Well, one day, in the back yard after playing in the sprinkler with my older boys, Mannie grabbed my hiking shoe. He ran and ran, zigging and zagging around the yard. And I chased him, mad as a hornet as I was squishing around the yard in my bare feet.
Just as I thought I had him cornered, I lunged to grab him, only to step in a pile of his dog crap. Think banana peel moment and right into the said pile of poop.
(I just told my wife the part I’m at in writing this and she said that was the funniest day she remembers with Mannie. I didn’t find it so funny.)
Cursing and swearing, I lifted myself from the stack of stool that was now smeared on my arms. He dropped the shoe knowing he got the better of me. I will never forget that day.
That was Mannie. He was such a ham.
While we lived in Calgary, in the southwest community of Braeside, naturally one of his favourite places was the off-leash area. There was one tucked along 14 St SW and Southland Drive near our home and that area was our playground for five years.
That’s where the hide and seek started with my older boys, Jake, then seven, and Ethan, then four-years old (now nearly 18 and 15.)
We’d go hide in the brush and Mannie would come and find us. Nose to the ground he’d track us down every single time. Oh, how fun that was! He’d be so excited to find us, he’d rip around and find an old, dead tree still standing. He’d tear that thing out – it didn’t matter if it was two feet long or 10 feet and he’d carry it out of the bush like a conquering hero.
Boy, did he love his sticks. Big and small, whenever he was in the bush he’d find a stick (or a full-blown tree) and drag it over. Seriously, I think the biggest one I’ve seen him carry was more than 10 feet long and made his head droop to one side.
On walks with Papa Harv, he’d chase a stick thrown into the bush for hours. They’d walk down by the river, which they often did at Grandma and Papa’s, when we’d ship him down on our out-of-town trips where he couldn’t tag along.
Yes, he was a cherished grand-dog. Lots of treats there (as grandparents do), and his buds Hope and Maui – two Yorkshire Terriers.
Thankfully, they too got to say goodbye when we took our kids down to them prior to heading to the vet (and ultimately the airport, bound for California.) There were lots of tears shed; they knew the end was near for Mannie. Their walks had become shorter and he didn’t quite chase the stick into the bush as much. He slept a lot there, too. “He’s an old dog,” Harv would say. “He’s had a good life.”
He was a grandkid to them just like our four boys. A part of their lives for the past 14 years.
When our two younger boys came along (Nolan in 2010 and Cooper in 2012), there was no jealousy and no behaviour issues with Mannie as there sometimes can be with dogs when you bring a newcomer into the house who gets all the attention. His natural disposition pushed him towards being like an older brother, always looking out for them, shepherding them when they needed it, playing with them non-stop and, yes, the odd time, fighting.
That relationship grew and flourished over the next eight years. You would often see the boys on their iPad, laying on the floor, propped up in the hind crook of Mannie’s body. They’d want to hold the leash when we walked him. They loved feeding him treats. They, too, learned from Papa that Mannie would chase a stick for hours. They swam with him. They raced him on the berm behind our current home (and always lost.)
He would explore with them at the cabin and be a part of all their hunting around the woods.
But again, hide and go seek was our game – this is where it evolved to an indoor game. Seekers always knew they would win if Mannie was on their side. He could sniff out people in closets, under sinks and beds in storage rooms, in tents… and he would get excited and bark. Or he’d come get you and lead you to the hiders.
He was just as much a kid to us as our four human children.
He had a special connection with our seven-year old, Nolan. Mannie laid in Nolan’s room nightly as he fell asleep. He paced between the living room and our son’s room in the evening, as if to check on him. That would continue through the night. Mannie would curl up on the rug next to Nolan’s bed and then an hour later come back to his bed in our room.
Right up until his last night, Mannie laid next to Nolan before he went to sleep.
When Nolan learned that Mannie was going to the hospital, he welled up with tears and cried.
“I’m really worried about Mannie,” he told us.
We didn’t have the heart to tell him what was going to happen as we were about to depart and wouldn’t be with them to share the burden of this loss.
(As of now, the two young ones don’t officially know, though Nolan told his grandma Rill last night that he believes that Mannie died.)
But, Mannie was a brother to all four of our boys. And they all had their own unique connection.
Cooper, when seeing my wife’s emotional response when telling Nolan’s teacher what about our dog and how Nolan was feeling, Cooper welled up and said he couldn’t go to school.
Our 14-year-old, Ethan, who lives with his birth mom, learned of the news shortly after it happened. He texted me, saying, “That’s actually so weird without knowing this I’m not sure why but I just broke down this morning…”
I don’t think any of them have a negative memory of Mannie.
The bond he had with my wife, Jen, was an unbreakable one. No matter what trouble Mannie got into (yes, despite all of these awesome things I’m telling you, he was an occasional shit-disturber), she’d always scold him one second and then forget about it the next.
They’d spent 14-years together – and in the early years much of it was under duress, with Dallas’s condition and, of course, after his death.
As much as I was now her loving husband, Mannie was her closest companion. They were inseperable. And I’m OK with that. I could see the joy and love Mannie brought to her life. It was her last remaining connection to Dallas and that part of her life.
This decision was hardest on her. Over the past few months she could see his deterioration and knew in the back of her mind that the end was near. But, to her, as long as Mannie could get up in the morning, trot outside for a pee and poop, wag his tail when being pet, he was worth having in our lives.
She was right.
Jen held his head and stroked his face, tears rolling down her face as Mannie took his final breath.
“I love you, big guy,” she said repeatedly.
As for me… I had the fortune of inheriting Mannie and having him a part of my life for the past 12 years.
The fact I’ve written 2,185 words (so far) about him kinda says what he’s meant to me.
We’ve had our ups and downs, no doubt. But when I needed someone to talk to without judgment, someone to cry with, someone to bark at the deer in the backyard, someone to get up with me at the crack of dawn, someone to swim with, someone to lash out at (yeah, it happens), someone to snuggle, someone to nuzzle, someone to run with and… someone to love, who loved me back unconditionally, Mannie was there.
I’ve had great dogs in my life. A lot of them. But none that measured up to Mannie. He was that awesome. He really was.
I will likely never have another dog like him. We may get another dog, but he or she will have big paw prints to fill…
I held my hand on Mannie’s chest as we said our final goodbye.
Up until the last moment, I wanted to tell the vet, “NO. We’ll figure something else out.” But I didn’t. I knew it was time. I sobbed and sobbed as it happened, telling Mannie I was sorry.
Sorry, yes, for having to make this decision. You don’t want to end the life of someone who has brought so much joy to you and your family.
But maybe sorry for not being as good an owner as I could have. Not always willing to make the same sacrifices for him as he was willing to make for us. Maybe for not always loving him unconditionally as he loved me.
My hand stayed on his chest as I could no longer feel his breath or his heartbeat. The vet confirmed Mannie was gone and he gave us whatever time we needed.
Mannie lay there on the couch, a dog once so full of life and love, now breathless.
Jen and I both kissed him goodbye, telling him how much we loved him.
He’s now chasing sticks, dock jumping, playing hide and go seek and giving cheek kisses to his heart’s content. His happiness is now eternal.
Rest in peace, my friend. Thank you for everything you brought to our lives. It won’t be forgotten.